By Emeka Obasi
It sounds unbelievable that nascent Eagles winger, Samuel Chukwueze, knows absolutely nothing about Segun Odegbami and Adokiye Amiesimaka, two of the best produced by Nigeria.
Chukwueze confessed to Vanguard man, Jacob Ajom, that he was not born when ‘Mathematical’ and ‘Chief Justice’ dazzled from the flanks and won the Africa Nations Cup with the Green Eagles in 1980.
He said:”I did not hear of all those ones, I don’t know them…them never born me that time.”
However, the Villarreal, Spain attacker is very much at home with another Nations Cup winning winger, Emmanuel Amuneke. It has nothing to do with Amuneke’s time at Barcelona.
This revelation must have come as a huge shock to Odegbami and Amiesimaka. Many others may be disappointed. Shame will be too hard a word to use in this case.
My reaction is sadness and pain. It boils down to the fact that our country does not value heroes. I am sure that Chukwueze has heard of Pele and Diego Maradona. These ones also played before he was born.
I want to challenge Sports minister, Sunday Dare, to quickly set up a Nigeria Sports Hall of Fame. It is more than a national embarrassment that some of our present stars do not know much about past national heroes.
A Sports Hall of Fame would help the memory of the younger ones. In 1999, Sports minister, Emeka Omeruah, set up a Board of Trustees for the Hall of Fame, headed by a former minister, Tony Ikazoboh.
The inauguration was performed by Head of State, Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar, represented by Air Vice Marshall Idi. I was part of it as a Board member and would not forget the tears that rolled down the cheeks of Justin Onwudiwe.
Onwudiwe was a member of the UK Tourists, as the national soccer team was christened in 1949 during its first trip overseas. That day, I got to know that he was father of singer, Tina Onwudiwe.
As I took AVM Idi and other government officials round an improvised hall in Abuja decorated with photographs and memorable kits, many were surprised to learn that the first Nigerian Olympian was, Folaranmi Adedoyin, who finished fifth in the Long Jump event of the 1948 London Olympics.
Adedoyin, an Ijebu Remo Prince, was a medical student in Belfast. He represented Great Britain because Nigeria was not yet part of the Olympic family. It should interest all that when eventually an Olympic gold medal came, it was in the Long Jump, through Chioma Ajunwa.
Today, we have an Eagles winger who does not know that before him there were Odegbami and Amiesimaka. We should note that the duo won Nations Cup bronze in their first outing just like Chukwueze did at the Egypt 2019 championships.
I will forgive Chukwueze, we all learn every day. In the next four decades, he could be the idol of fans all over the world. Even those that were born after he had hung his boots will not forget his feat.
Patrick Olusegun Odegbami will remain great in life and even after life. He won the Nations Cup in 1980 and was voted joint top scorer with three goals. He shared honours with Khaled Labied of Morocco. ‘Mathematical’ was also joint top scorer at the Ghana ’78 Africa Nations Cup.
Odegbami, a prolific left winger, remains a superstar in Ghana. I am talking from experience. For three years, I visited Ghana with him as part of Shell Nigeria Academicals contingent.
At the La Palm Royal Beach hotel, Labadi, Accra, guests could not keep their eyes off him even as fellow cup winner, John Orlando, appeared. At the Accra Stadium, chants of ‘Mathematical’ were deafening.
Ghanaians will not forget Odegbami. He almost caused them to wee in their pants in 1978. The Black Stars and the Eagles met in an Accra group A game. He found the net and the hosts were almost going to lose 1-0 until Klutse drew them level less than 15 minutes to time.
The Black Stars lifted the trophy. Eagles lost to Cranes of Uganda in the semis but grabbed the bronze off runaway Tunisia.
Odegbami won the Africa Winners Cup with Shooting Stars Ibadan in 1977. His first club was WNTV/WNBS Ibadan. From there he joined Housing Corporation before moving to Shooting Stars. Younger brother, Wole, also played for Nigeria.
If you are looking for a true Nigerian, Odegbami is. Born in the South-West, he grew up in Jos, finishing at St. Murumba College. That is the school that produced Keneth Abana and Benedict Akwuegbu.
Odegbami and legendary Eagles goalie, Emma Okala, shared room in camp and remain the best of friends with Christian Chukwu. He is a chief of Mbaise for managing Ajunwa to Atlanta Olympic gold in 1996.
Mathematical made his Eagles debut against Sierra Leone in 1976 and earned 46 caps, scoring 23 goals for Nigeria. He was named Soccer Ambassador by Omeruah in 1999.
Amiesimaka’s story is also fascinating. One night, armed robbers invaded his Port Harcourt home. They swept it clean. Just as they were leaving, one of them saw a photograph hanging on the wall.
‘You played for Enugu Rangers? They asked him. Of course, he did. All that was stolen were brought back and they apologized for disturbing a hero.
Chukwueze should learn from this. Adokiye played for Rangers, Sharks and ACB. He was born in November , the month the former made his Eagles debut in 2018.The Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium, Port Harcourt was opened in July 2015, the month Chukwueze scored his first goal for the Eagles.
Odegabami is an Engineer, Amiesimaka a Lawyer. Education pays. Odegbami was Chairman of the Board of the Nigeria Institute of Sports[199-2003]. Amiesimaka was Commissioner for Justice, Rivers State.
Chukwueze is from Amaokwe, Ugba in Umuahia Ibeku. I doubt if he knows that his kinsman, Abraham Tonica Nwachukwu [Assassin] was Spain’s middle weight boxing champion in 1960 after defeating Lazarus Marano.
Victor Apugo is Chukwueze’s mentor. Jay Jay Okocha , his idol. They should encourage him to read. We know he won Bronze Boot in Chile when Amuneke led Golden Eaglets to glory in 2105.